Don’t smother me, give me room to breathe

Christians are commanded to reach out to unbelievers and share the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  This is a truth stated by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew prior to His ascension into heaven.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 What I find interesting is that Jesus did not tell us how to do this, He just told us to do it.

In light of this, I have seen many Christians evangelize their faith by drowning their hearers in Scripture verses. I have also seen it done by debating with the hearer.  I have seen it done by critically passing judgment on the hearer because of their unbelief.  Very rarely have I seen evangelizing done by demonstrating love to the hearer.

An unbeliever needs to be allowed to disclose their many preconceptions concerning God, life, death, sin, etc.  They need time to explain their condition to you, otherwise, they will withdraw from the discussion and you will have lost a valuable opportunity to effectively witness to them about the love of Christ.

The Bible gives us a great example of a technique we should use when speaking with an unbeliever.

Acts 17:19-23 (NIV)

19Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) 22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

 The Apostle Paul took time to study, observe and examine his audience in Athens.  Only when he was able to pinpoint a starting point for his dialogue with them did he present the gospel.  Because of this approach, he was able to hold their attention and “plant” the necessary seeds of the gospel message.  There is much we can learn from this approach.

When was the last time you took inventory of how you witness to an unbeliever?  Are you smothering them with information that is foreign to them?  Remember, the language of the Bible and many of the words you use are of the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world.

Therefore, it is a foreign language most of the time to an unbeliever.

Or are you finding that you pay no attention to the sinner’s worldview; how they think and reason.  Remember, you need to let the Holy Spirit show you where the “soft” spot is in the heart of the sinner you are trying to witness to – that is your entry for the gospel.

Another point of consideration is the outcome you expect when you witness.  Is it that the hearer immediately gives their life to Christ at the conclusion of your encounter or is it that you have successfully planted or watered a seed of faith in their heart?  Remember, it is only our duty to tell them of the good news; it is God who softens their hearts and leads them to Christ.

Evangelize vs Witness

Today, it is extremely critical that every born again believer in Jesus Christ be literate of the distinction between evangelism and giving personal testimony (better known as witnessing).

The definition of witnessing is to testify to one’s religious convictions.  This usually takes the form of explaining to someone what the Lord Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit or the Father have done in one’s life or in one’s circumstances.  This is witnessing to the goodness of the Lord or the deliverance one experienced from the hand of the Lord.  It is testimony that affirms the presence of the Lord in one’s life and how that has caused changes in one’s behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, etc.  It acts as an “advertisement” so to speak to the one hearing the testimony.  It sturs awe, amazement, hope, anticipation, and desire in the hearer to seek the Lord for themselves.  “If He can do it for me, He will surely do it for you”.

The definition of evangelizing is to preach the gospel to.  This pertains to telling someone specifically about Jesus Christ – not you;  His mission, purpose, life, death, burial, resurrection and provision of eternal salvation.  It is the gospel message that convicts, soften hearts, brings contrition and repentance.  It is through the gospel message that one understands how to secure eternal forgiveness and eternal life.  So remember to ask yourself the next time you are having a discussion with an unbeliever if you are witnessing or evangelizing.  Both are beneficial but they are not synonymous.  Remember that it is only through Jesus Christ that one is saved – not through your personal testimony.

Eternal Directives…

The inspired Word of God is very specific about its directives to all born again believers in Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 28:19,20 we are directed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.

In Mark 16:15 we are directed to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

In Luke 24:46-47 we are reminded that the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.

Why is it then that there are so many born-again believers in Jesus Christ who pay more attention to “worldly” nonsense than to the “eternal” message of Jesus Christ?  Why are there so many believers who would rather “preach” a message of “abundant life” than the message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins”?

If not for the “cross of Christ” we would all still be lost, condemned, cursed and eternally separated from God.  This is the message that we are instructed to tell people; this is the message that brings hope into the life of every person wanting to be reconciled to God.  Why aren’t born again believers doing what the Lord has commanded them to do, now that they have received the gift of the Father’s grace?

Don’t be complacent because you are “saved” and “redeemed”.  Don’t be insensitive to the condition of those who are still “lost” and “separated” from God.  Walk in the shadow of the compassion that was shown to you by the Father and Jesus Christ; walk in the gratitude of the love that was demonstrated by Christ on the cross.  Pay more attention to the message that holds eternal consequences and less time on the messages of this world that have no significance.

Show the love for your neighbor by preaching to them their need for repentance so that they too may receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and redemption; and be more willing to teach them in the way of sanctification.

Remember: The Lord is not wanting for anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance. (2Peter 3:8-9)